THQ is a Southern California video game company that wins this week's award for Worst Publicity Stunt, Especially in Retrospect, I Mean Wow, What Were They Thinking?
(Assuming such a thing exists.)
To promote their forthcoming game Homefront, THQ released thousands of balloons over the Moscone Center at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Ten thousand red balloons, to be exact, each one carrying a special coupon for the GameStop video store.
It's hard to guess what they thought was going to happen (each balloon floating peacefully into the hand of an eager gamer?), but unsurprisingly, the balloons first ascended to the skies, then were driven by wind and rain into the bay. Eventually, thousands of balloons bobbed on the surface of the water, and rather than squealing with joy over their coupons, citizens were righteously pissed off.
The reason for the balloon launch in the first place? Homefront is set in a near-future where the United States is invaded by nuclear-armed troops from North Korea, and THQ chose the balloon release as a way to "simulate a method used by South Korea to send messages of hope to the North."
Great idea! Except mayyyyyybe for the part about the balloons.
San Francisco's environmental group Save the Bay has accused THQ and GameStop of polluting and littering, and GameStop was quick to claim no prior knowledge of the stunt. For THQ's part, they're reassuring the public that the balloons "were made from a 100% organic product and are 100% biodegradable," but also say they're providing a cleanup crew for any lingering debris.
I'm guessing that doesn't include scooping balloons out of the bay, but then again, if I were in THQ's marketing department, I might well be strapping on a wetsuit today in order to save my ass.
But hey, maybe this person's actually going to get a raise. I mean, it's possible this falls under the "there's no such thing as bad PR" umbrella, right? I doubt we'd be reporting on Homefront today if THQ hadn't crammed balloons up San Francisco's bay-hole, after all. Maybe the bad press they're getting right now will eventually result in increased sales, because at least people will have heard of the game ahead of time.
What do you think? Stupid PR move by this gaming company, or crazy like a fox?
Image via Flickr/technicolor76